Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to an issue that is fundamentally vital to the Canadian economy, the issue of tourism. Bill C-5 is an initiative that will see the Canadian Tourism Commission transformed from its present status as a special operating agency into that of a crown corporation.
The Canadian Tourism Commission was originally set up in 1994 by order in council and under the guidance of the Department of Industry. Its mandate is to manage, plan and implement programs that generate and promote tourism in Canada.
The bill before us represents an evolutionary step in the process by turning the agency into a crown corporation. Such a change will result in many fundamental differences, all of which are designed with the intent of providing greater flexibility to the CTC, thus allowing it to better serve the tourism industry.
Most of the components contained in the bill are without controversy. For instance, there seems to be broad support offered by the provinces. This support is predicated upon several factors.
First, the act gives a legislative mandate to the function of marketing Canada as a tourism destination. That mandate specifies a significant role for industry, provinces and territories in national tourism marketing. This role of the provinces raises a few questions as to why we are not respecting the equality of all provinces in the bill, but I will touch on them later.
The second reason provincial governments seem inclined to support the bill centres around the restrictions placed on the CTC specifically. The commission may not initiate or finance programs involving the acquisition or construction of real property, immovables or facilities related to tourism. This ensures that the commission's interest will be focused on marketing. In the past federal tourism funds have somehow been used with mixed success on facility development programs.
The third and most important reason has to do with the perceived commitment by the federal government to have the marketing of tourism led by industry rather than by government. I say perceived because as the legislation presently stands the corporation will be made up of 26 directors.
Sixteen of the directors will be appointed by the Minister of Industry and will serve at the pleasure of the minister. The other 10 directors will essentially be made up of provincial deputy ministers of tourism or their equivalent. I am doing the math and it does not look good for the provinces. Worse still is the notion that the minister maintains a comfortable majority on the board by having 16 pleasure appointments that he can yank whenever one steps out of line. Honestly everybody wants to rule the world but we must protect against this.
When I reviewed the stated objectives of the bill I was not struck by any intentions that would be overtly out of line. The CTC objectives include sustaining a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry; marketing Canada as a desirable tourist destination; providing information about Canada's tourism to the private sector; and supporting a co-operative relationship among the private sector, the Government of Canada, the provinces and the territories. No alarm bells here.
How can these initiatives be achieved if the deck is stacked against provincial representatives to begin with? If the true intention is to sustain a vibrant industry we should not introduce a predetermined barrier to that dynamic.
I want to make clear that I am not discussing patronage. I do not question the intention of the minister. The reality of the situation is clear. Provincial representatives will certainly watch out for their own regional issues.
However, even if all provincial governments are in agreement on a specific policy, the minister maintains a very heavy hammer to pound in order to achieve what he wants. This is not enough for my party to oppose the bill at this time, although I look forward to exploring this further at the committee stage.
Another point in this bill that concerns not only myself but also the tourism minister of Prince Edward Island is the regional representation breakdown for the appointed directors. The bill, in clause 11, delineates six different regions of the country. They are as follows: the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Alberta, which is combined with the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and British Columbia, which is combined with the Yukon.
Bill C-5 does not respect the fundamental equality of all provinces and that will be explored further. However, there is another issue that I want to raise, which has to do with the relative importance of tourism to the economies of the individual provinces. While the gross figure for revenue generated by Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia may not come close to those generated by other provinces, their tourism dollars as a percentage of GDP speak volumes for their need to have effective representation.
I raise these issues out of a desire to improve the bill and to respect the fundamental nature of Canada, but by and large the minister has done a commendable job in producing a bill that has such initial broad support. I have had positive feedback from the governments of Alberta, Ontario and Prince Edward Island for the general aims and principles of the bill. Since those are provinces governed by members of my party, I know they are therefore quite reasonable and astute on such matters.
Tourism endures the peculiar legacy of being big business carried out by thousands of small operators. This commission is a very important initiative since tourism injects nearly $47 billion a year into our economy. These are not constant dollars that we can count on to be there year after year. We must do our part to assist tourism operators to grow their revenues.
In 1998 Canada witnessed a drop in visitors from some of our major overseas markets. Japan was down 14%, France was down 8% and Germany was down 5%. When we consider that tourism employs over 500,000 Canadians directly, plus a multitude of spin-off jobs, it is an industry that is too important to keep our hands at bay. Of course, an active hand does not mean an interventionist hand. I am aware that the minister understands that, which is why he is endeavouring to make it an industry driven venture. It is a difficult task, to be sure, especially when we consider that government nets 31 cents out of every tourism dollar spent in Canada. It is certainly an incentive that would have some advocate a more activist role for government. That is why my party is supportive of Bill C-5 and its less intrusive approach.
Tourism is Canada's 12th largest revenue generating industry, with 40% of that revenue generated in my home province of Ontario. Like many of my colleagues in the House, I have a vested interest in assisting this bill forward.
In order to understand and judge the viability and worth of any government project, I find it useful to start from the premise of what the situation would be if it did not exist. There is no need to reinvent the wheel to answer that question. All we need to do is look to our neighbours to the south where we see a situation that has a certain amount of disarray to it. The U.S. federal government did away with the U.S. travel and tourism authority at few years back. Now the U.S. tourism industry is actively lobbying for a new national body.
If we start from the premise that this body is absolutely necessary, and for the most part I think we are there, then it is incumbent upon us to get it right. We must be open to all input on proper structuring, especially from industry members themselves, since at present the private sector and the provinces are paying more than 50% of the tab.
In the limited time I have had to meet with stakeholders, it has become clear that we are just scratching the surface with tourism now. What we need to achieve is the creation of a commission that will allow the industry to maximize our potential growth areas with destination strategies and growth in areas like adventure travel and ecotourism. We also need to develop a strategy that will assist rural tourist operators in their ongoing struggle to obtain financing.
Obviously we are not going to be able to address such specific issues in an effective way as a parliamentary body. That is why I hold out such hope for this commission.
If we do our job properly, we will have a tourism commission that will be a model for other nations for years to come. That is why the Progressive Conservative Party is supporting Bill C-5 at second reading.